Read the speech Nixon prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts died on the moon

Illustration for article titled Read the speech Nixon prepared in case the Apollo 11 astronauts died on the moon

The 1969 moon landing was one of humanity's most impressive achievements, but there was always a chance that things could go terribly wrong. But if the worst happened, and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were commended to the void of space, Nixon had a stirring speech prepared, one that celebrated the spirit of exploration and the nobility of our lunar dreams.


The Apollo 11 mission was not without uncertainty. NASA feared that Armstrong and Aldrin would not be able to launch the lunar module from the moon to join the command module. If the module failed to launch, Armstrong and Aldrin would have been stuck on the moon, condemned to run out of air hundreds of thousands of kilometers from home.

Thankfully, it never came to that, but just in case, William Safire, Nixon's speech writer who would later write the "On Language" column for the New York Times Magazine, penned a short but lovely speech. Even though it was never used, the speech is a fitting tribute to the men who were willing to give their lives to the cause of exploration, one whose tone is full of wonder rather than despair.


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT: The president should telephone each of the widows-to-be.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT, at the point when NASA ends communications with the men: A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to "the deepest of the deep," concluding with the Lord's Prayer.

Doomsday Speeches: If D-Day and the Moon Landing Had Failed [The Atlantic via It's Okay To Be Smart]


When I read the book "Dragonfly" about the Russian space station, the author talked about the issue of constructing things in space, and how, based on the statistics of building things in general we should expect a certain number of deaths building real space station. But that the deaths that take place in space would be seen very different than a multibillion dollar construction project on earth.

Then I read the article about how the trip to Mars would be much more doable if the astronauts only went one direction. [] the story cam out the Journal asked how many people in the would sign up for what would be a one way trip the got 400 volunteers. But would that be okay with humans? Americans? Chinese? Russians? If you volunteered and WANTED to stay and die on Mars it would be like burning the boats when you landed in another country. Of course this could backfire when it came time to cut funding, some people would say, "We can't just stop sending them supplies! They will die!" but the supporters of funding cuts would say, "They knew that it was a suicide mission when they signed up, it's just a matter of if they die now or later. Maybe its time for them to start pulling their own weight. What have those colonists done for us lately? We have given them billions they have given us are some photos and "atmospheric data". Oh sure all of our "human eggs" aren't in one cosmic basket, but this "survival of humanity" insurance is too costly. Plus we are told that the odds of an extinction level event on earth is 100's of thousands or even millions of years away. What's the rush? There are plenty of starving people right here on earth we should take care of first and those people didn't volunteer!"